Television ratings agencies seem to be the flavour of the season. On the one hand, Kantar Research, one of TAM Media's major shareholders, has moved the Delhi HC against the Union Government’s new guidelines on cross holding restrictions. While on the other, up-and-coming ratings agency Broadcaster Audience Research Council (BARC), slated for a 1 October launch, has announced a tieup with France-based Mediametrie for technology services and licensing of a TV metering system.
BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta and BARC Technology Committee member Paritosh Joshi spoke to CNBC TV18 about what to expect in the new set up.
“The ratings agency is the one which will own the data and put it out - which is BARC in our case. So there will be ways of getting the information such as technology, panel etc. but it will all be owned and put out by BARC,” said Dasgupta, implying that the final agency will have to be free of cross ownership although its suppliers could have any type of ownership.
Joshi revealed that two big chunks of work had already been completed - that is assessing panel homes and technology within them. “The panel will emerge out of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), which is out now. The people meter devices will be built on retail hardware that can be bought from Mumbai’s Lamington road and not proprietary equipment. Now, we only need a panel management agency,” said he, pointing out they had already received offers for the same.
Asked about the credibility of BARC, Dasgupta said they have an adequate system in place. “We have broken the piece up into panel management people, who know homes but don’t have the visibility of data that comes through GSM lines straight to our servers. We have technology people, who have visibility to data but they don’t know the homes, just the ID. What we are trying to achieve is that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. From the integrity point of view, we are not taking any chance,” he clarified.
However, BARC has not yet got a system to address the issues of niche channels. “The World over niche channels have not been measured like we do it here. But we may do it differently,” said Dasgupta ambiguously in the interview to CNBC TV18.
As things stand, the industry has been yelping and running for cover fearing a ratings’ blackout. But Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari says that a ratings-dark period should not be a cause for alarm.
“This isn’t the first time that ratings have been suspended. Even before, it has happened because the industry wanted it,” said the minister candidly when probed on this during an interview to CNBC TV 18.
He pointed out that one of the main reasons for digitisation was to reduce dependency on advertising revenue and increase subscription revenue. “With the technology now, the STBs have the capability. A little engineering is needed and then you can reach 15 crore homes by putting a small chip that will let you know who is watching what in real time; be it satellite, IPTV, DTH or terrestrial,” he informed.
Tewari was also critical of the way TAM has been operating. “The way the arrangement was working - where you are the advertiser as well as the broadcaster and you are also taking out ratings. This conflict needed to be addressed,” he stressed